Guatemalan Newspaper Closes after 10 Months of Persecution

Journalist José Rubén Zamora arrives at court in Guatemala City. Photo: EFE / Esteban Biba

The founder of El Periodico de Guatemala, José Ruben Zamora, has been in prison since July 2022, accused without evidence of money laundering and blackmail

By EFE / Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – The Guatemalan investigative daily El Periodico announced its closure this Friday, May 12, 2023 almost ten months after the arrest of its founder and president, the renowned journalist Jose Rubén Zamora Marroquin, in prison since last July.

“After 287 days of resistance, it is time to say see you later,” the outlet said in a statement stating that May 15 will be its last edition.

Zamora, winner of dozens of international awards for his journalistic work, was arrested on July 29 on charges of money laundering and blackmail, just five days after launching strong accusations of corruption against the inner circles of Guatemalan president Alejandro Giammattei.

“From that moment the battle to resist began and the forecasts were not hopeful. According to the calculations of the finance staff and given the circumstances, the media had two months left to live. But it was not like that. Thanks to the solidarity of our loyal readers, our advertisers and the support of international organizations that believe in independent journalism and democracy,” the outlet detailed.

El Periódico was born in 1996 by the hand of Zamora and during its almost 30 years of life, many cases of state corruption were published, including the scandals that led to the fall of the Government of Otto Perez Molina in 2015.

Zamora, 67, is in the middle of the trial against him, but has repeatedly warned that he is a “political prisoner” and that he will be sentenced for being uncomfortable for those in power.

El Periodico recalled in the statement that the case against Zamora was created “in less than 72 hours” and that four of the journalist’s lawyers have been charged, in addition to the fact that investigations are being carried out against six journalists and three columnists for El Periodico.

Conditions at the military barracks where Zamora is held

The arrest of Jose Ruben Zamora has been widely criticized internationally by various organizations and social entities.

According to various sources, the journalist has only one hour of sunshine a day in the Mariscal Zavala military barracks prison, where he has been detained since last July.

“We will continue to believe in a fair Guatemala with freedom of expression, a Guatemala where democracy can flourish. Hasta siempre!”, the outlet said goodbye, the place where dozens of Guatemalan journalists got their start.

The Public Ministry’s accusations against Zamora have been led by prosecutor Rafael Curruchiche, sanctioned by the United States with the withdrawal of his visa on corruption charges.

Four of the seven lawyers who have defended the journalist have been charged for allegedly conspiring with Zamora, while three others have resigned for various reasons.

That is why Zamora indicated this week that he requires a public defender, since he had previously indicated that he would defend himself only because of the risk that those who defend him run.

In 2021, Zamora received from the King of Spain, Felipe VI, the prize for being an outstanding media in Ibero-America, for the investigative work that El Periodico has carried out for almost 30 years.

Between 2018 and 2023, at least 30 Guatemalan justice system officials, prosecutors, activists, and journalists have had to go into exile denouncing political persecution against them.

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